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My work with clients has its fair share of painful, gut-wrenching, poignant moments. Recently I’ve been given cause to reflect on why we need to face our own mortality.

Some of what I say is probably going to sound vague, but this is deliberate in order to protect people’s confidentiality. 

What I’ve experienced recently has compelled me to write about how humbling it is to work with people who face great adversities in life.

These are adversities that you or I may also face at some point. Perhaps that’s why it’s so humbling to me; because at any point in the future it could be me.

Life is in flux

Life is ever changing; nothing stays the same. I think most people are well aware of this; however, it’s a whole different ballgame when big things happen.

Also, ‘big’ means different things to different people; it’s not going to affect us all in the same way.

However, when life throws up difficulties that force us to confront life and mortality I’d say that was up there with the big stuff.

When it’s so in your face to the extent that you can’t look away and all you can do is look straight back, that’s huge.

That’s why we need to face our own mortality. The sooner we accept this, the sooner we can really start to live.

As a mental health professional, I need to be able to stay present while people navigate these scary places.

I need to be able to contain my own feelings whilst helping clients explore their own emotions in a supported way.

Acknowledging mortality

What I witnessed recently in my work with some clients was an acknowledgement of long-awaited answers and new hurdles to overcome. There was also a realisation that the road now being travelled was only going to end one way.

Discussions turned to ways in which those involved could move away from focusing too much on the future, and living more fully in the present.

We’re all aware that none of us are getting out of this alive. However, when you’re forced into facing your own imminent mortality that’s an enormous weight to carry.

I felt incredibly sad, and a sense of helplessness, because there was nothing I could do to change what was happening.

Without meaning to sound trite or cliched, I felt humbled and privileged to bear witness to the conversations that were taking place.

Take a moment to be present

Being present when others are facing their own mortality reinforces the importance of living more in the moment and making the most of what we have.

I’m sure that lots of people, myself included, don’t stop often enough to take stock of what we have. It reminds me to do better, to be more present, and take joy in the seemingly small things.

The material things pale into insignificance when compared to how beautiful and precious the human connection is.

It’s something that cannot really be put into words, it’s more of a feeling, and it was beautiful for me to be able to witness it.

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